Room Boys

Living That Life in Dubai
A friend brought to my attention this feature from Gulf News celebrating the novel conditions of living quarters for 13,000 workers in one of Dubai's labor "villages." From the outset the piece manages to strike a feverish tone of insanity, somewhat unusual even for a studied Emirates mouthpiece. "You can be forgiven for mistaking the housing cluster near the Abu Dhabi border for a gated residential community," the delirious staff writer intones. Then, guffawing with unbridled enthusiasm, he braves a Vanna White impersonation near a basic storage unit, "The labourers leave their work boots outside on a shoe rack on each floor. Inside, there is a smaller rack for slippers and home shoes." The tendency to highlight such storied human rights gains is un-new, but buried further down is a phrase remarkable for its economic clarity. When they leave for work, “room boys” tidy up their rooms, make… Read More...

Propositions for Twenty Unmade Works of Art

Make a work based on the hazards of your job Be specific and unsparing
Open a map of one country Open a map of another Using one set of small objects—like erasers, matchsticks, pearls, hairpins, pits, or seeds—artificially connect cities on one map to another Collect expired or revoked passports in the approximate number of the inhabitants of your country Record the musical interlude opening every television channel's evening news broadcast Piece together the musical interludes without any dialogue from the news anchors Spend one full day at an airport Leave behind sketchpads, writing materials, or recording devices Observe your surroundings with care, regardless of fatigue or boredom Return to your studio and make a work in any genre Title it "Nothing to Declare" Use spray paint, nail lacquer, or acrylic to reorient the colors of a chess piece into the colors of your country's flag The white pieces become one color, the black… Read More...

Shadow Games

"It's a kind of military climatology springing virtually out of nothing"
This is the last photograph I took in Jordan. Isn't it ugly? There were many other photos taken with pleasure and curiosity and the errantry of free time—sibling street cats in milk crates, the ruins of a Byzantine mosaic, a neighbor's abandoned TV in the middle of a garden. But it was this photo, snapped on the way to Amman's airport, that stopped me cold. When the plane hovered over us a tremor ran through the trees near the Byzantine ruins. The alley cats ran away. The neighbor stuck his head out of his second-story window for the first time in two weeks. "It's the Royal Jordanian Air Force," said one passerby. "It's an aircraft from the American military base here," said another. "It's an illegal Facebook post," said a third. "It's a kind of military climatology springing virtually out… Read More...

Wall, Ground, Air

Colonized everything
This month Léopold Lambert interviewed me for Archipelago, a podcast platform of The Funambulist. Walls, Ground, Atmospheres, and Bodies in Palestine covers border geographies as enduring conceptions of security, separation walls in Brazil and Palestine/Israel, the air closing in, and cataclysmic events that throw even the most secure ideologies into disarray. https://soundcloud.com/the-archipelago/maryam-monalisa-gharavi-walls-ground-atmospheres-and-bodies-in-palestine This conversation with Maryam Monalisa Gharavi can be divided into three chapters, all corresponding to one physical aspects of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in relation to Palestinian bodies. We begins with the physicality of the wall and compare its securitarian spectacularity with the ones built at the edges of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas in the last decade. We then address the question of the ground and its ability to shake our convictions when no longer providing the resistance to the entropy named gravity, like during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake.… Read More...

The Labor of Performance (Part Two)

Taboo disclosures: she divulges her monthly salary
Part One precedes this post. How mesmerizing could a choreography based on ballet and spoken word be? Very. I find it difficult to approach Véronique Doisneau (Jérôme Bel and Pierre Dupouey, 2004) with anything short of endearment. The Paris Opera Ballet commissioned a documentary about Doisneau from Bel, a "low-rank" dancer a week away from retiring after a 20-year career. The evening of her last performance makes up Veronique Doisneau. Doisneau delivers a monologue like Zidane, but through direct oral address. Physically she is featured front-and-center onstage, not unlike a TED talk speaker, only gripping. She reveals that her career was marred by a back surgery at the age of 20, and works up to more revelations in a soft but resilient tone. Doisneau never rose to the ranks of full étoiles or principal ballerina but remained a sujet, a performer who dances… Read More...

Little Earthquakes

Nature un-naturalized
"Come, contemplate these frightful ruins, This wreckage, these shreds, these unfortunate cinders" Accourez, contemplez ces ruines affreuses, Ces débris, ces lambeaux, ces cendres malheureuses —Voltaire, "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster" (Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne), 1756 At the end of a two-week residency at Darat al Funun in Amman, Jordan, I'm delivering a lecture and visual performance called "Performative Ground," which takes its name from a photographic series being developed in Palestine. I'm formulating connections between the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the devastation of Gaza, the arbitrary nature of survival, friends and enemies, nature un-naturalized, and the transitory and vulnerable quality of the ground, which one must never take for granted. Read More...

The Labor of Performance (Part One)

By gazing intently at the utter mundaneness of a person at work, the film denaturalizes their labor.
Douglas Gordon's Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) addresses itself solely to Zidane during a Spanish Liga Real Madrid versus Villareal CF game in April 2005 at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. As Gordon tells it, a crew of 150 filmed Zidane in real time using 17 synchronized cameras, each camera equipped with its own operator, focus puller, loader, and runner. The crew for the live event, like Zidane himself, worked without a storyboard. Their only directive came from the Goya portraits Gordon arranged for them to study at the Prado. Zidane, notoriously private, delivers a testimony of his innermost thoughts in the subtitles. He doesn't "talk" vocally or give a talking-head monologue; the awkwardness of that genre staple is displaced on an elegantly fonted text track. A private life unfolds over a highly public moment. Something between public and private slips… Read More...

Against Nepenthe

The landlady brought news of your death
The landlady brought news of your death just as I was on the ledgers of a great discovery, on the edge of the New World’s old treasures. We would have been neighbors. Me: um pequeno ponto no mundo In the world without a world. You: the reluctant shepherd of false starts and lost stars. You: to grasp the reins of chromium horses through intergalactic charterbelts, To map the course of factory smoke in blue ink nephograms. Me: to undead the living, To grasp with the mind’s eye that last image of you in a doorway.   Read More...

Transcript on a Face

Wilson the innocent ghost, Brown the guilty demon
"Now these criminals are recognised even from their earliest days because they have extraordinary anomalies of the face and of the skull, asymmetry, macrocephaly, exaggeration of the length or breadth, strabismus, ears badly placed or too large, enormous jaws, bad conformation of the teeth, especially of the incisors, now too large, and again too far apart, nose flat and crooked, hair abundant on the forehead, an exaggerated development of the body (a child of seven having the stature and weight of one of nine), strength precocious, left-handedness more common, and above all great dulness of the senses. There is then a criminal type, so that your intuition leads you unconsciously to shrink from a person who has the face of a thief. I explain this fact scientifically..." —Cesare Lombroso, "Criminal Anthropology Applied to Pedagogy," The Monist, 1895, p. 57 "Do they know how… Read More...

Septuplus

Littera canina, Red alert of Rs retroflexed on tongues. Rhotic growl of propelled bullets, chirruped from a rocket.
Skulls and bones descend on host city Brisbane this week for the 2014 G20 Summit.  For those who weren't invited to attend, Bumf has published a special G20 issue. They asked me to contribute, and the result is Septuplus, a suite of poems comprised of "From the Land of the People Without Money," "Banquet," "Exhaling Birds," "Anthropogenesis," "Global Positioning System," "Oratory," and "Sine Die," with a frontispiece excerpt from Attar's The Conference of the Birds. Here's "Oratory": Read the entire issue here. Read More...

Interview in Ibraaz

The spirit of address is solidarity or speaking nearby and never for
Writer Mirene Arsanios did an interview with me for Ibraaz. Forensic Transgressions covers recent and upcoming work, from fictional epistolary in American Letters to literary translation in Waly Salomão's Algaravias: Echo Chamber to net art in Bio. We also discussed the provenance of this very space. Here's an excerpt: Mirene Arsanios: In 2009, in Rio de Janeiro, you started a blog called 'South/ South', which was transplanted to The New Inquiry in 2012. Can you briefly introduce 'South/ South' and what prompted it? Maryam Monalisa Gharavi: 'South/South' is a crossing point for several ideas. At its broadest it allows for an extended questioning and critique of the dominance of western universalism. There are many 'Souths', inclusive of – but not limited to – the nations of the Global South and the southern hemisphere, and the American South. Their autonomous cultures are undervalued. Their systems of knowledge are undervalued. Their connectedness to each other is undervalued. The spirit… Read More...

The Killing Class

To order spatial operations, to command bodies, to keep things moving along, to kill with impunity
"It cannot be neglected that the mythology of the democratic polity avidly recounts the heroic combat against the police agents of the old order. But even if the police officer of today did not evoke the images of the past at all, he would still be viewed with mixed feelings. For in modern folklore, too, he is a character who is ambivalently feared and admired, and no amount of public relations work can entirely abolish the sense that there is something of the dragon in the dragon slayer." (Egon Bittner, The Functions of the Police in Modern Society, 1970) Late last year I started a series called "The Thick Blue Line," based on documented, widespread, and ongoing police impunity in the United States. At the end of each month (here are the first, second, and third installments) I compiled national… Read More...

A Translation of Waly Salomão’s “Jet-Lagged Poem”

Is it day? Is it morning? Is it evening? Is it night? Sleeping? Awaking? Somnambulent?
My translation of Syrian-Brazilian poet Waly Saloma?o's "Jet-Lagged Poem" is in the new issue of Asymptote, which focuses on literature from Latin America. (Special thanks to editor Aditi Machado.) Asymptote, which is committed to the international encounter of language and literary translation, requested an audio recording of the poem being read in the original Portuguese, so one is included on the site. Here's an excerpt of "Jet-Lagged Poem": Large bird of an international route sucked by jet turbines. And bridge, rope, cable car, catacombs of the wine club, sorbets, sherry, scanners, hydrants, magasin d'images et de signes, seven types of ambiguity, all things lose the commas that separate them a wagon full of connectives explodes-implodes the gentian violet sky reflected in the needle of the glass skyscraper stations Bouqinistes megabookstores la folie du voir bistros cinemas cities whole countries engulfed in the storm drain. High cuisine and… Read More...

Wall of Names

The list of names grows before cartridge ink has dried on the page
As the massacre of Gaza reached its tenth day we began laying out the names of the dead, their ages, and the locations in which they were attacked. We consulted information registered by the Gaza Health Ministry (who risk their lives to make this record possible) and compiled by Al-Akhbar English and Al Jazeera English. We are trying to keep pace with the names as they are released, but the list grows before cartridge ink has dried on the page. The document we are using is available for public viewing, downloading, and printing. We are updating it as often as we can. (This is not an art installation.) —Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, Judith Kakon, and Cecilia López Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY Read More...